Most days over the last year, Vinny Magalhaes would get up, leave his Las Vegas home and arrive at Syndicate MMA to train. Once inside and fully changed, Magalhaes would pause for a second.
"What's my goal here right now?" Magalhaes said he would think.
Magalhaes has not fought in the last 13 months. He signed to compete in April for World Series of Fighting, but his former promotion Titan FC put the kibosh on that, claiming he was still under contract. For most of 2015, Magalhaes has been healthy and ready to go. He just hasn't been able to get in the cage.
"It sucks to be taking all this time off from fighting," Magalhaes said. "We do have a short career. The busier you stay, the better it is.
"Nobody is getting any younger and you feel like you're wasting your time."
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is free to get back to work now. He'll meet Matt Hamill at WSOF 24 on Saturday at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. Magalhaes is hoping to beat Hamill and maybe sneak in another fight before the year is over.
Mostly, he's just happy to be back in the cage. While out, the Rio de Janeiro native competed in three major Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments, including ADCC and Copa Podio. Magalhaes hit a twister submission during ADCC and won the bronze medal at 99kg.
"It's not like I'm not getting the feeling of being in competition," he said. "It's not the same thing. But at the end of the day, it's still competition. It's not like I was completely out of shape and I just decided to fight."
Magalhaes, 31, said he was actually in shape when he signed the contract for Hamill. He's been raring to go. And he doesn't hold any ill will toward Titan anymore. Magalhaes said he still keeps a "business" relationship with execs Jeff Aronson and Lex McMahon and he hopes the situation worked out for both of them.
Due to signing a non-disclosure agreement, Magalhaes said he is not really allowed to speak about his situation with Titan. All he can say is that he thought he had grounds to terminate his contract and Titan felt differently. When WSOF booked Magalhaes in its light heavyweight tournament in April, Titan blocked it.
"I did have a problem," Magalhaes said. "I felt on my side, with my lawyers, they felt that I had the right to walk away from the contract. [Titan] tried to dispute that. But at the end of the day, they let me go.
"It wasn't bad. It was just one of those things, I wanted to get my career moving and they're not allowing it to happen. I just felt like I had all the rights to walk away, according to my contract. That was it."
Magalhaes (12-7) has a four-fight deal with WSOF and is looking forward to working with the organization. A title fight is not really on his mind right now. Even though a win over Hamill could put Magalhaes right in the conversation, things are up in the air with champion David Branch. Branch also holds the middleweight belt and it's unclear if he'll defend that one before the 205-pound title.
"I'm not willing to wait for that," Magalhaes said. "The main thing for me is to stay busy. If that means that I'm gonna have to get another fight or a couple more fights before fighting for the title, for me it's not a big deal. I just want to stay busy and the title right now is not the most important thing."
Not that he is poorly paid on the jiu-jitsu circuit. Magalhaes said he is compensated better than most for competing in BJJ events and he also runs seminars and teaches classes at Syndicate. Eventually, Magalhaes wants to open his own gym -- just not in Las Vegas, where it is crowded with MMA facilities as it is.
That will come later. Now, Magalhaes will be training himself, not training someone else. And, with his career back on track, there is an actual outlook ahead.
"When you know you're gonna be out for a year," Magalhaes said, "it's really hard to be in the gym with a focus."